Kamala Harris and a Excessive-Threat, Excessive-Reward Presidential Résumé


Hello. Welcome to On Politics, your wrap-up of the week in nationwide politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Is Kamala Harris drawing the shortest straws within the White Home?

This week, President Biden introduced that Ms. Harris would lead the administration’s effort to protect voting rights, a activity he instantly mentioned would “take a hell of a whole lot of work.”

And on Sunday, Ms. Harris leaves for her first journey overseas, visiting Mexico and Guatemala as a part of her mandate to address the root causes of migration from Central America which can be contributing to a surge of individuals attempting to cross america’ Southern border.

The central political query dealing with Ms. Harris has by no means been whether or not she’s going to run for president once more. It’s when and the way.

But for a history-making politician with huge ambitions, Ms. Harris has adopted an early agenda that has left some Democrats fretting about the way forward for a politician who’s already positioned as a presidential-nominee-in-waiting.

Each immigration and voting rights are politically fraught issues with no straightforward options. Democrats’ expansive election laws has faltered in the Senate, with average social gathering lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia expressing considerations in regards to the invoice.

And regardless of one of the best efforts of her group, Ms. Harris has grow to be the administration’s face — sometimes quite literally — for the inflow of migrants, together with tens of 1000’s of unaccompanied kids, on the Southern border.

Allies level out that Ms. Harris’s portfolio extends past these two high-profile points. She’s additionally liable for increasing broadband web entry, combating vaccine hesitancy, advocating the infrastructure plan, serving to ladies re-enter the work drive, highlighting the Black maternal mortality price and aiding small companies, amongst different points.

The allies cite the challenges Mr. Biden took on throughout his first time period as vice chairman — together with main the White Home effort to attract down troops in Iraq and overseeing the implementation of the stimulus invoice — and argue that voters reward politicians for tackling arduous points, even when they continue to be unresolved.

And plenty of argue that there are not any straightforward issues in a rustic nonetheless grappling with a devastating pandemic, continued financial uncertainty and a divisive racial reckoning.

“These are long-term systemic points,” mentioned Donna Brazile, a former Democratic Get together chairwoman who speaks with Ms. Harris and her group. “She’s outlined by what I name actual huge issues, and issues that require a distinct sort of management to resolve.”

After all, “actual huge issues” additionally carry a far higher danger of political missteps and coverage failures, notably for a politician who’s extra polarizing than the president she serves, polls present.

Even earlier than she grew to become the primary Black feminine vice chairman, Ms. Harris emerged as an early target of Republicans, who discovered it simpler to rile up their base with racist and sexist assaults towards her than with condemnations of Mr. Biden. Within the conservative media, she’s relentlessly outlined as an untrustworthy radical, with an unpronounceable identify and an anti-American agenda.

The false caricature could also be having an impression on her picture: Tracking polls find Ms. Harris’s approval score hovering a few percentage points lower than Mr. Biden’s, with extra voters expressing destructive views of her efficiency.

Aides to Ms. Harris have quietly positioned a few of the blame for the politically damaging scenario on Mr. Biden, who introduced her new diplomatic project by telling reporters earlier than a March assembly on immigration on the White Home that the vice chairman would “lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the nations that may assist, want assist in stemming the motion of so many of us, stemming the migration to our southern border.”

Ms. Harris’s workers spent weeks explaining that her job was to not reform the nation’s immigration system however a narrowly centered international coverage mission. That distinction is tough to attract, given the interconnected nature of world migration.

And it appears to have been misplaced on Republicans, who see the scenario on the border as one in every of their most potent traces of assault towards a comparatively common administration. They’ve spent weeks falsely calling her Mr. Biden’s “border czar,” releasing #BidenBorderCrisis movies and calling on the vice chairman to go to the southern border, which she’s going to fly over this weekend on her option to conferences in Central America.

However there are some indications that behind the scenes, Ms. Harris pushed for management roles on these charged coverage points.

After the election, some allies of Ms. Harris’s urged her to tackle immigration, in response to individuals who have spoken along with her group, although the problem has lengthy been so intractable that the final president to cross important laws addressing it was Ronald Reagan. And the vice chairman personally asked Mr. Biden if she might spearhead the administration’s battle towards Republicans’ new voting restrictions, as an extension of her previous work as a senator and the lawyer basic of California on an issue she believes threatens the underpinnings of American democracy.

But within the Senate, Ms. Harris was not recognized for her shut relationships with moderates like Mr. Manchin. It’s unclear if she’s going to be capable of dealer the sort of compromises inside her social gathering that will probably be essential to cross a voting rights invoice. And given the shortage of Republican help, little is more likely to occur on the invoice unless Democrats agree to abolish the filibuster, which a number of moderates oppose.

Past laws, her affect is restricted. Within the states, Republicans have made the passing of legal guidelines that prohibit voting an early litmus check for his or her social gathering. Whereas the Justice Division can convey litigation towards voter-suppression measures, Ms. Harris can’t been seen as pressuring the company to take action. Filling judicial vacancies with pro-voting judges might assist cease a few of the state legal guidelines, however that may be a function that falls to Congress and Mr. Biden.

Nonetheless, there could also be political upside for Ms. Harris in taking up voting rights. Voting rights advocates have expressed frustration at what they see because the administration’s tepid method to countering voter suppression and the prospect that it might hamper Democrats’ means to win elections in 2022 and past.

Ms. Harris can journey the nation rallying her social gathering’s base, notably voters of shade who’re the spine of Democratic politics. Allies say her function will lengthen far past the legislative wrangling within the Senate to incorporate conferences with activists, state officers and companies — constructing relationships with the sorts of Democrats who may help bolster a presidential bid.

“From her perspective, what I’d say she’s excited about is, ‘Look, if we don’t repair this, our democracy is gone,’” mentioned Leah Daughtry, a veteran of Democratic campaigns. “She will probably be utilizing the ability of the bully pulpit of the White Home to get folks engaged and concerned.”

However some recommend that Ms. Harris’s portfolio could have extra to do with workplace politics than these of the presidential selection. Whereas Mr. Biden feels comfy with Ms. Harris, Democrats conversant in the workings of the White Home say, some on his group stay skeptical of her loyalty after the divisive major race. Her agenda, they argue, could merely be the White Home model of cleansing up after the workplace social gathering: What higher option to show her constancy than by taking up a few of the most thankless duties?

“There’s at all times the lengthy view when you’re vice chairman and you concentrate on the longer term,” Ms. Brazile mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s too early. Joe Biden has mentioned he’s operating in 2024, and she or he is an actual group participant.”


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